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Q&A Summary 19/01/23

Written by developer on . Posted in OSRS News

This week's livestream focused on the lore of Secrets of the North! Topics included:

Thanks to Mod Sarnie (Community Manager) and Mod Ed (Senior Content Developer) for their insights!

DISCLAIMER: Livestreams are a glimpse into the ongoing creative process at Jagex. JMods are speaking off-the-cuff and their comments are not intended to be read in the same way as prepared updates from the company. Please keep this in mind when discussing the Q&A!

Missed the live stream? Check out the transcript below!

Secrets of the North Q&A

Question #1

I’ve really enjoyed SOTN! What was your inspiration when creating SOTN?

Question #2

Which quests have been your favourite to work on? Is SOTN one of your favourites?

Question #3

How long did you spend creating SOTN?

Mod Ed

For actual development, it was a fairly short project; it’s not a hugely long quest. It’s not super short either; it’s more of a medium length when you compare it to other quests. We started development on it in October and finished it in December, so it took just over two months to make.

It was a sort of middle ground with regard to how long it takes us to make quests. That’s for the actual development though - we’ve been thinking about this and planning a lot of it for quite a bit before then. We first started thinking about Desert Treasure II about three and a half years ago - that’s when the first teasers started appearing in-game with Gnome Child via Birthday Event, and then when we released Below Ice Mountain. A lot of ideas have been potential designs floating around for quite a bit before development started.

Mod Sarnie

Compared to the previous quest Garden of Death, how long did that take to make?

Mod Ed

Garden of Death was a Game Jam project so that one took a week to create. On the whole we did do a little bit of tidying up afterwards. If anyone has ever done anything like a Game Jam, they’ll know that those things can sometimes need a little bit of polish afterwards. The focus of the Game Jam was very much “let’s create something that works”. That’s what’s fun about Game Jam - you get to work on something that’s a little bit rough around the edges and then you refine it afterwards. Garden of Death was about a week to make, and a few extra days afterwards to polish it up and make it releasable.

Question #4

I really like that Jhallan is having a nightmare and that’s how Phantom Muspah manifests. Can you tell us more about how you approached this storytelling?

Mod Ed

I talked a little bit about it already about how we looked at Tale of the Muspah in particular. This is one of the things that we wanted to retain from RuneScape. While the quest does take a bit of a turn, Jhallan being the Muspah was one thing we wanted to keep the same, but we wanted to make it feel more impactful.

With Tale of the Muspah being a novice quest, there’s not really any combat - you just find that Jhallan is a Muspah and then he turns back into a Mahjarrat. We wanted to make it a bit more intimidating; that the Muspah is something the Mahjarrat themselves fear to the point that they’re having nightmares about them and accidentally shapeshifting into them.

Turning that into a full boss fight was a really good way of showing that as well. It was one of those really fun places where the gameplay and the narrative combined. We knew we wanted to do a big boss at the end of the quest, and we wanted to make the Muspah feel more intimidating - what better way to do that than by combining that to make the Muspah the boss itself?

Question #5

SOTN is essentially a tangent to Tale of the Muspah from RS3. Are there future plans to follow the Mahjarrat story but with an Old School spin to it? Especially While Guthix Sleeps and Ritual of the Mahjarrat.

Mod Ed

Tangent isn’t the word I’d use, but there’s definitely a connection to Tale of the Muspah - it’s the quest we looked at the most - but we also wanted to make sure we added plenty of Old School unique elements. Hopefully, people have seen those elements. That gives you an idea of what we’re planning for the future and hopefully shows that while we do intend to stay true to the feel of the original Mahjarrat quests and the characterisations, this isn’t just going to be a copy and paste. It is going to move in a slightly different direction.

I suspect, assuming we don’t run out of time later in the stream, we might talk a little bit about the quest backporting survey we did. One thing that was on the survey was While Guthix Sleeps, and when looking at the Mahjarrat quests there are few from RuneScape that we want to follow relatively closely - Lucien’s side of While Guthix Sleeps is something we’d like to stay fairly true to. If nothing else, it’s considered one of the most iconic quests of all time, and it could be dangerous to try and perfect what’s already close to perfection!

With how beloved While Guthix Sleeps is, I wouldn’t want to just change that story for the sake of it; to just try and do something different. When it comes to doing different things, the hope is that they add to the storyline, so with quests like While Guthix Sleeps I’m very hopeful that we can see our own versions of those in Old School at some point that stay fairly true to those stories.

With other aspects of the Mahjarrat storyline, I think there are going to be some unexpected twists and turns, and as a result, I don’t expect that we’ll do Ritual of the Mahjarrat in Old School. With Ritual of the Mahjarrat being the finale of the Mahjarrat storyline; where it all leads to, if we wanted to take this quest and put it into Old School, that would basically be us committing to doing all the other Mahjarrat quests exactly as they were done in RuneScape, which we don’t want to do. We will have our own version of the Mahjarrat finale, and a ritual will of course take place in it, but it will not be Ritual of the Mahjarrat.

Question #6

SOTN is very fun and has awesome lore with a great set-up to DT2. Can you explain the brainstorming processes for this awesome lore to tie it into DT2 and continue Devious Minds and Hazeel Cult?

Mod Ed

These are the sort of connections that we wanted to add that weren’t present in RuneScape. They played a big part in the Old School elements that we wanted to add to this. As I mentioned in another question, Hazeel is one of the Mahjarrat but wasn’t explored too much in RuneScape; at least not at the time when these quests were coming out.

Devious Minds was one that while it did play a part, it was quite a small part. It had a small connection to The Temple at Senntisten, but not too deep a connection. Spoilers for anyone who hasn’t played The Temple at Senntisten - it’s been quite a long time so hopefully, you don’t mind - the assassin reappears in that quest and gives the player the relic he stole, so it can be used as part of Azzanadra’s ritual that he’s doing to re-establish contact with Zaros.

Again, it’s one of those things where Devious Minds is part of the Mahjarrat storyline; it wasn’t obvious in Old School before, but it absolutely always was. The developer of Devious Minds is no longer at the company and didn’t leave much documentation on what their plans were for a sequel to that quest, but the one thing they did make very clear from some comments they left in the code is that Devious Minds from the very beginning was always a Mahjarrat quest. It was just not obvious at the time.

So we took those comments and we ran with it! We tried to link it into Secrets of the North; we really wanted to feature the assassin quite a bit more heavily than he was featured in RuneScape and make him a core part of the story, to make it feel that Devious Minds was a worthy part of the Mahjarrat storyline rather than an afterthought. Those two quests have been key from the start; they play a big role here.

Question #7

Is there a lore reason why the Phantom Muspah uses Corruption (which is otherwise associated with Arceuus magic), or is that coincidental?

Mod Ed

I’m going to have to be a bit disappointing here and follow on from the last fun little teaser with a rather boring answer. Before Secrets of the North, the only reason corruption was considered tied to the Arceuus spellbook is that this was the only place where it was used.

It was never the intention that corruption is an Arceuus-specific effect. It was designed to be a new prayer-draining effect that could be used throughout the game, similar to poison. So no, I’m afraid not. There’s not really meant to be any secret hints or teasers in that, it’s just an effect that we expect to use in various places in the game.

Question #8

Will we be seeing more Mahjarrat in the future that haven’t yet appeared in Old School (like how Jhallan was introduced in this quest)?

Mod Ed

This is spoiler territory, but yes! We don’t want to go overboard and start having Mahjarrat left, right and centre. One of the really nice things about the Mahjarrrat is that there are a good amount of them and each one has their own unique, distinct character that you can explore in a reasonable amount of detail with their quests.

If you start adding too many, you lose that and it starts to become more about the Mahjarrat as a race, rather than individuals. We don’t want to introduce too many, but there are a few more who haven’t appeared yet in Old School who will do over future quests. When I say quests, I do mean quests; I don’t expect every single Mahjarrat to appear in Desert Treasure II, for example. We’ll save others for other Mahjarrat stories.

We’re not going to go overboard. It’ll mostly be the ones that were in RuneScape in the 2007-2011 era. It’ll be the ones who appeared in those post-Old School quests prior to Ritual of the Mahjarrat rather than any of the others that are spoken about in history, or any new ones.

Mod Sarnie

Don’t expect an Endgame-style “all the characters are here now!”. I don’t think that’s going to happen.

Question #9

Is there a plan at the moment for where the Mahjarrat storyline is going? I'm wondering if you have a plan beyond DT2, or the Ritual of Rejuvenation if those are different things, for where you'll take it.

Mod Ed

I’ve kind of alluded to this with the previous answers - I won’t give too much away, but I want to make sure that we provide a reasonable amount of clarity. When it comes to planning storylines, we generally plan out the main points and then some of the smaller details often aren’t worried about until it comes to developing the individual quest.

It’s a good balance, I’ve found, and it’s served us really well with the quests we do. You always know where the story’s going. There’s always room for little extra elements to be added based on feedback and other developments that are happening in the game.

For the Mahjarrat storyline, the fact that we’re now working on it means that we have planned out the key beats of where this storyline is going to go. Desert Treasure II obviously plays a core part in that, but it is not intended to be a finale. I’d put Desert Treasure II as a While Guthix Sleeps tier of quest - it’s going to be big, and it’s going to be impactful. It’s a grandmaster quest, but there will be more to come after that.

Just like what While Guthix Sleeps is to Ritual of the Mahjarrat, consider this something similar. There will be additional Mahjarrat quests after Desert Treasure II, and similar to the way the Mahjarrat storyline has worked up until this point where it’s not been a linear storyline, it will crisscross over a bit and come back and forth.

Not all of those quests will require Desert Treasure II; there’ll be some coming from different areas focusing on Mahjarrat that we haven’t seen much of yet or haven’t done much of in a while. There will also be ones that directly follow on from Desert Treasure II as well.

That goes back to backporting - that’s how we feel, we can do backports of quests like While Guthix Sleeps while still offering plenty of new things as well. The Mahjarrat storyline is really well set up for that sort of thing, with there being lots of branching plot threads that eventually culminate together at the end, rather than being a linear storyline.

It means we can simultaneously do our own things and backport quests as well. So yeah, there is a rough plan. It involves multiple quests; some new, some potentially backported, and it will culminate in one big finale that will be the ritual of rejuvenation, but will not be the Ritual of the Mahjarrat quest as you know it from RuneScape. It’ll be some other take on the ritual, and to say any more would be a spoiler!

Hopefully, that provides some clarity on what the plans are. For anyone who was thinking Desert Treasure II might be the end, depending on your take, either breathe a sigh of relief that you’ve got plenty more Mahjarrat coming or “oh no horror” at plenty more Mahjarrat coming!

Question #10

Can we discuss the bow/sword-wielding ninja assassin who not only kills monks on Entrana but also is messing up followers of Zamorak? Is this a Rambo Guthix agent? A Zarosian general? Three Gnome children in a trenchcoat? Sliske in disguise?

Mod Ed

The best bit about Old School storytelling is that three Gnome children in a trenchcoat wouldn’t be an impossibility! It’s probably unlikely, but I do like it, so maybe we should make that true. Again, don’t want to give out spoilers about what’s happening in the future, but as I’ve mentioned in an earlier question, we wanted to make the assassin a much bigger character.

Some of that was based on a few small comments that the original creator of Devious Minds left behind. We wanted to explore him a bit more, and we will be exploring him again in the future to hopefully provide some clarity on “who is he and what is he up to? Who is he working for? Is he working for anyone?” Who knows!

Question #11

What's with the plot armour for assassins in OSRS? First AKD and now SOTN. Why do they keep killing people AFTER being clapped by the player?

Mod Ed

I don’t think they have plot armour - I would say that wouldn’t I, I made these quests! With AKD, the assassins in that quest were specifically written to be terrible in a proper fight, and that’s why a player is able to effectively beat them. The advantage they have is their ability to be stealthy assassins, and that is why they’re able to do what they do at the end of the quest. That’s going to obviously be a huge plot point in the current storyline that’s going to be explored very heavily.

It’s going to be the focus of the next quest of the current storyline of who killed the king, who hired the assassin, how was an assassin able to get into the castle and how are they able to get past all the defences - both physical and magical - to get into that castle? That shouldn’t have been able to happen, what was the reasoning behind that? This is very much the focal point of the next quest of the current storyline when we get to do that one.

Hopefully, they don’t have plot armour; they just had a very good plan and enacted it very well. It might mean interesting things in future quests. As for Secrets of the North, you didn’t clap him, he just got bored and cracked on! That assassin, he’s definitely not your standard assassin. He’s got more tricks up his sleeve.

Question #12

Who is your favourite Mahjarrat?

Mod Ed

I really like Hazeel. Maybe I’m just biased because he’s one of the main Mahjarrat in Secrets of the North and one that wasn’t really explored in RuneScape. It was really fun getting to do more with him.

I’ve always found Akthanakos quite interesting. He’s got the head of a camel! You have the ability to shapeshift into anything; you’re part of a race that has this magical ability to shapeshift, and you go “I could be anyone…I’m going to be a camel.” I find that fascinating! I really hope we get to explore more about his curious choices.

Question #13

Will the Easter Egg connections between Kourend/Xeric and Zaros pay off at Desert Treasure 2?

Mod Ed

I didn’t think there were any easter eggs directly connecting the two. Hopefully, this doesn’t disappoint people - it’s to temper expectations - I don’t think we’ve been putting that many easter eggs in about some big secret link between Xeric and Zulrah. If we did, I didn’t realise.

I will say that there are links between the Mahjarrat storyline and Kourend; we’ve already said as much with Desert Treasure II, which requires the Garden of Death quest. There are definitely links there, but we’re not talking links to the point where the Kourend storyline is secretly part of a Mahjarrat storyline and the two are going to combine.

Like you said earlier, the big epic Endgame-style quest where all the storylines combine, that’s very much not the intention, not just with these but with all of our storylines. We want to make sure that we stay true to all of them. We want to keep their own storylines and not just start combining storylines to try and make it feel bigger or more epic.

There’s a lot of crossover; there are a lot of little links here and there. There are little links between the Mahjarrat and the Kourend storylines that you will see a fair amount of in Desert Treasures II. Some of those links are quite significant, but it isn’t some secret twist that it’s all going to combine and reveal that Xeric was behind everything. That’s not the direction we’re going in.

Question #14

One of the new NPCs in Uzer Oasis at SOTN mentions Hosidius. Are these new areas Desert Treasure 2 related?

Mod Ed

When they say new areas, I assume they're referring to the Uzer Oasis, because Hosidius isn't new. We did add a little oasis alongside Secrets of the North; I wonder how that got there?

Some of that area is definitely Desert Treasure 2-related; that's not a spoiler. If you watched the Desert Treasure 2 trailer, you'll already recognise the vault that is located in this new area of the desert from the trailer. If you haven't watched the Desert Treasure 2 trailer yet, watch it; it’s quite a good trailer, and you might see a few little teasers here and there.

Some of that stuff like that vault is absolutely setting up Desert Treasure 2, but also there's other stuff in there as well that isn't Desert Treasure 2-related. Some of that is still Mahjarrat related, which is quite fun - it’s setting up other things that we'd like to do for Mahjarrat in the future that isn't Desert Treasure 2.

Some of the stuff there is not Mahjarrat related at all. It's just a nice little bit of flavour to add some life to the area and potentially be explored one day but doesn't have to be. The answer is a mixture of yes, maybe and no, depending on which bits you're looking at.

General Lore Q&A

Question #15

When creating the lore for a quest, what is the process like between you and other developers?

Question #16

Is the world of OSRS actually going to step forward and progress? Storylines are "progressing" but they don't seem to matter in the grand scheme of things other than end-game rewards. Quests seem to have no implications on the world as if they're all in their own self-contained bubble.

Mod Ed

I'm insulted! I guess it depends on what you mean and what your definition of progression is. I’m probably a little bit biased, but I do feel that there is a meaningful progression in our storylines and there is stuff that is impacting the world. Some of that is very small; changes to certain characters, but some of that is significantly bigger.

You complete the Song of the Elves and a whole new city has appeared. Another city that was once full of mourners - they've now all gone and they’re now starting to rebuild. That feels to me that it is impacting the game world in a very meaningful way.

If that is the definition of progression, I - politely - disagree with the person asking this question! I do think they are having a meaningful impact on the wider world in that sense.

If by progression you’re referring to the game being set in the same year and thinking about how RuneScape has progressed to a new age when the Gods came back - no, that’s not what we want to do.

Part of Old School is that it is “old school”. We add new content to Old School weekly, but the way we add it is if done well, the idea is that the content feels like it could have been present in old school RuneScape as it was back then. It’s new, but it feels old school.

We take the same attitude to the narrative. With Old School RuneScape, it’s so important that the world always feels familiar; always feels like home. That is the foundation that Old School was built on. Progressing the storyline in a way that would move to a new age; that Gods would come back and Lumbridge blows up, I’m not saying those are bad things to do. It’s great, but RuneScape already did them.

The fact that RuneScape did them is really beneficial for both games because it means if you want that kind of story, you've got a RuneScape story, and if you want more old school, you've got the Old School story.

We don't need to do it as well; we can just stay in the fifth age and keep telling stories about a world where the Gods aren't present and focus on what the followers of the Gods do when they don't have a God to tell them what to do. It's all about their own interpretations, rather than the direction Runescape went in. So if that's the definition of progress, then no, that's not something we will ever do in Old School.

Question #17

I'd like to ask about Quest Backporting which was surveyed with high success: How is it planned to incorporate the quests into OSRS, having noted that the OSRS devs are trying to incorporate their own spin on the story?

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